05/24/2011 4:18PM

Lone Star Park: Awesome Gem to be back for Handicap on Million Day

Benoit & Associates
Awesome Gem, with David Flores up, wins the Hollywood Gold Cup in 2010.

Awesome Gem, who parlayed a runner-up finish in last year’s Lone Star Park Handicap to victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, has both of those races on his agenda again this summer, said his trainer, Craig Dollase.

The first part of the double comes Monday. Awesome Gem is headed to Texas for this year’s Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, the richest of six stakes to be run on the annual Million Day program. The horse’s plans were firmed up Tuesday after he breezed five furlongs in a smart 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs.

“He had his final work today,” Dollase said Tuesday. “It was just kind of a maintenance breeze. Robby Albarado worked him and is going to ride him. He flies out Friday morning.”

Awesome Gem could be part of a seven- to eight-horse field in the Lone Star, a 1 1/16-mile handicap that was starting to take shape on Tuesday. He is weighted at 118 pounds for the race. The list of possibles includes Thiskyhasnolimit (119), Yawanna Twist (116), Flat Out (115), Coyote Legend (115) and Lydia’s Last Step (112).

Duke of Mischief, who with Game On Dude is co-highweighted at 123 pounds for the Lone Star, will pass on the race and likely make his next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows on June 25, his trainer, David Fawkes, said Tuesday.

Awesome Gem will start as one of the top choices in the Lone Star after finishing fourth by a half-length in the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 6. For the effort, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. A year ago, Awesome Gem ran well in the Lone Star when he was second to Redding Collier. Following that race, Awesome Gem won the first Grade 1 of his career in the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park. This year, the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup is set for July 9.

Awesome Gem, an 8-year-old who has earned $2.3 million, races for West Point Thoroughbreds.

“He’s like fine wine,” Dollase said of the horse, who won his first Grade 1 at 7. “He’s something else. He’s been a solid campaigner for us. He still has that spirit and drive.”

In addition to Friday’s flight from Kentucky, a plane from California on Thursday is scheduled to bring horses to town for the stakes at Lone Star. Other top races on the special Monday card include the Grade 3, $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff, which is expected to draw one of the nation’s top turf mares in Wasted Tears.

The $200,000 Lone Star Derby is new to the Million Day lineup, after being held in early May last year, won by Game on Dude. The Lone Star Derby is also being moved to turf for the first time Monday. Other races on Million Day include the $150,000 Dallas Turf Cup.

Entries for the races will be taken on Friday.